Chofetz Chaim – Introduction (4)

I considered why this sin has become disregarded by so many people and
realized that this is due to many reasons, some applying to common
people and some to learned people.
Common people do not know that it is forbidden to speak lashon hara
even about the truth, while learned people, even though they know that
lashon hara includes the truth, are fooled by the evil inclination.
First, it argues that the person spoken of is wicked and can therefore
be spoken about, for it is a mitzvah to publicize the wicked. And
sometimes it says to him – So and so is a quarrelsome person whom one
may speak lashon hara of. Sometimes it tempts him with the leniency of
Apei Telata (before three people), and sometimes with the leniency of
Apei Mara (before the person spoken of), convincing him at the time he
speaks, that he would say the same before him. The evil inclination
reminds him of all the passages relevant to these leniencies.
Sometimes it persuades him that what he is speaking is not lashon
hara, such as when he says that someone is not clever.
As a rule: It either persuades him that his words are not counted as
lashon hara, or that the Torah did not forbid speaking against this
particular person.
When the evil inclination sees that these arguments are insufficient,
it uses an opposite trickery, showing one that everything is included
in lashon hara and if so, it is impossible to live in this world
without separating from all worldly matters. This is similar to the
words of the cunning snake (Bereishis 3:1), “Did G-d indeed say – Do
not eat from all the trees of the garden?”
In addition, many people do not know that one is not allowed to accept
lashon hara, meaning that one is not allowed to believe it in one’s
heart but only to suspect [it may be true]. They also do not how to
emend the sin if they transgressed lashon hara and rechilus.
Due to these reasons, the whole matter has completely collapsed,
resulting in people saying whatever happens to come out their mouth.
They do not consider whether it is included in lashon hara and are so
habituated in this transgression that many do not consider it a sin at
all. Even if a person is speaking lashon hara and someone asks him –
Why did you speak lashon hara and rechilus? He thinks the person is
trying to make him a righteous, upright person, and does not accept
the rebuke as he sees that everyone disregards the matter. All these
reasons exist because all the laws of lashon hara and rechilus have
not been gathered into one place where their details are explained;
rather, they are scattered throughout the Talmud and halachic works.
Even the Rambam in chapter 7 of hilchos dei’os and Rabeinu Yonah in
Shaarei Teshuva, did not create a clear path in this halacha. They
were very brief according to the way of the Rishonim, and many laws
are not included in their words.